Clover Park Technical College (CPTC) in Lakewood, WA, was named the 2012 Tomorrow’s Technician School of the Year (ttschooloftheyear.com) during a surprise award ceremony in October for students and instructors of the automotive program.
WIX Filters and O’Reilly Auto Parts partnered with Tomorrow’s Technician as title sponsors for the national contest to find and name the best technician training school in the country.
Wayne Bridges, automotive technician instructor, said he was excited that the school had received national recognition for its accomplishments, saying CPTC has been in the forefront of automotive technical education for 70 years.
“We have a long tradition of automotive training at Clover Park Technical College our state-of-the-art facility paired with excellent instructors bring a wealth of experience and technical resources into the classroom for the students,” said Bridges.
“We have an incredible administration that supports our automotive program and understands it is essential to stay on top of changing technologies to succeed in this industry.”
The NATEF-certified school, with Mt. Rainier looming in its background, has placed in the Top 20 of the Tomorrow’s Technician School of the year contest twice before taking the title this year.
The automotive programs provide students with collision, customization and restoration, as well as technical/mechanical training.
Bridges said he and his staff try to keep the learning level interesting through plenty of performance hands-on learning, as well as science-based projects that involve the students.
“We have a 465hp Chevy powered Mazda Miata that we use in the curriculum, and we are building a 1989 Chevy S 10 “Gasser” pick-up,” Bridges said. “And during the Hybrid/Alternate fuels class last spring, students produced bio-diesel and hydrogen which they then used to power some of our vehicles.”
Another reason for the wide automotive curriculum is due to the program’s diverse student skill levels, as some of the students already hold automotive-related jobs. Ages of the students range from 16 to 65, with the average age being 30. About 90 students from the auto programs graduate from the school each year.
Bridges said besides its long history, the auto program feels more like a family, rather than just a group of colleagues teaching repair skills to the next generation of automotive technicians. Of the seven instructors in the auto department, five of them graduated from CPTC.
“We have a great team of instructors here totaling more than 200 years of automotive experience,” he said.
Hallowed Grounds and History
Interestingly, the CPTC campus was at one time the site of Tacoma Speedway prior to World War II. Tacoma Speedway (sometimes called Pacific Speedway or Tacoma-Pacific Speedway) was a 2-mile wooden board track for auto racing that operated from 1914 to 1922.
In its time, the track was renowned nation-wide and was considered by some to be second only to the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.
After an arson fire destroyed the wooden grandstands in 1920, the facility was rebuilt, but failed financially and racing ended two years later.
In December 1941, school districts located near large military bases were asked to provide technical training for the citizens of the area to qualify them to repair and maintain ordnance and military equipment needed for the war effort.
With shop buildings available at Clover Park High School, a program called War Production Training was started. Under the instruction and guidance of instructors such as Jim Hammond (Airframe Mechanic Instructor), Arnold Cassidy (Engine Mechanic Instructor), and Dick White (Airframe Mechanic Instructor), 500 people were trained as auto mechanics and aircraft service mechanics.
Thus began the history of what would later become Clover Park Technical College, and its 70 years of staff and faculty excellence.
Post-war economic growth, baby-boomers, and rock-n-roll ushered in the 1950s. CPTC was a fledgling
vocational technical institute, but growing rapidly. In 1951, the federal government was phasing out the Navy Supply Depot (the current site of CPTC), and the Clover Park School District was granted approximately 130 acres there, part of which was the former speedway grounds.
Although the local school district occupied most of the seven concrete block buildings on the property, the school district soon moved to other locations in Lakewood.
In 1954, the Clover Park Vocational-Technical Institute began operating in one of the buildings, handling mostly aviation trades. In 1957, the auto shop, machine shop and electronics programs moved into other vacant warehouses.
In 1977, a building renovation/addition project was completed that included a new Automotive Service and Sales Center. In the 1990s, the school changed its name to Clover Park Technical College and continued its tradition of excellence in automotive training.
Clover Park Technical College (www.cptc.edu) is the fifth-annual recipient of the national School of the Year award.
“It is encouraging to see the students and faculty of Clover Park Technical College embrace how automotive technicians’ jobs are evolving as vehicles become more high-tech,” said Mike Harvey, brand manager for WIX Filters.
“With today’s vehicles becoming more complex from hybrids, electrics and advanced clean-diesel engines auto technicians are being trained in new technologies.
“We are proud to support this program recognizing Clover Park as the best technical school in the country and look forward to the success of the school’s future technicians as they begin their careers as the next
generation of technicians.”
CPTC received a $2,500 donation from WIX Filters; O’Reilly and WIX Filters gear (hats, backpacks, shop banners, stools, product samples); 200-piece professional automotive tool set from O’Reilly Auto Parts; $250 gift card from O’Reilly Auto Parts; and an appearance by Sarah Burgess, BMI Team owner and driver in the Xtreme Drift Circuit, with her 2013 Ford Mustang running the 5.0L Engine with a 2.9L Whipple Supercharger.
“Support from manufacturers and the aftermarket industry help fund quality programs for the next generation of automotive master mechanics,” Bridges said. “The School of the Year award furthers our great reputation for outstanding automotive training and we are honored to be the 2012 recipient.”
Clover Park Technical College joins the honors of past School of the Year winners:
Arapahoe Community College in Littleton, CO (2011);
Caddo Career & Technology Center in Shreveport, LA (2010);
Ohio Technical College in Cleveland, OH (2009); and
Waubonsee Community College in Sugar Grove, IL (2008).
“We are very pleased to recognize Clover Park Technical College as the 2012 School of the Year,” said Jeff Stankard, publisher of Tomorrow’s Technician. “We believe Clover Park’s instructors, staff and administrators are truly working hard to prepare their students to become the top-notch professionals this industry so deeply requires.”
2012 Runner’s Up
This year’s three runners-up are Pennsylvania College of Technology in Williamsport, PA; Chipola College in Marianna, FL; and San Diego Continuing Education in San Diego. Each school will receive a 200-piece professional automotive tool set from O’Reilly Auto Parts and $250 gift card from O’Reilly Auto Parts.
View a video from CPTC, as well as other School of the Year finalists at: